Monthly Archives: June 2014

4 genres of Narrative in Digital Media

Ryan, M. 2001. Beyond Myth and Metaphor: Narrative in Digital Media.

Definition of “Narrative”

Ryan (2001) defined narrative as “mental representation that can be evoked by many media and many types of signs”.  It is not limited to story telling, literature, fiction or novels.  Moreover, he pointed out four elements which compose of narrative;  a world (setting), populated by individuals (characters), who participate in actions and happenings (events, plot), through which they undergo change (temporal dimension)(p.583).

-Narrative is not coextensive with literature, fiction, or the novel.
-Narrativity is independent of tellability.
-Narrative is not limited to written or oral storytelling.  It is a mental representation that can be evoked by many media and many types of signs.
-Narrativity is a matter of degree: postmodern novels are not nearly so narrative as those of the nineteenth century.
-As a mental representation, narrative consists of a world (setting), populated by individuals (characters), who participate in actions and happenings (events, plot), through which they undergo change (temporal dimension).

4 genres of Narrative in digital media

In terms of digital narrative, most significant element is “interactivity”, which means “the ability to respond to changing conditions in the global state of the computer”.  The resource of interactivity is users’ input.  Ryan categorized interactivity of digital media narrative as 4 types.

  • internal interactivity
  • external interactivity
  • exploratory interactivity
  • ontological interactivity

internal / external interactivity

Internal interactivity allowed users to project themselves as members of the stories.  On the other hand, external interactivity places users  outside the fictional world even though they can interact with characters in the story.

exploratory  / ontological interactivity

In exploratory narrative, users explore the fictional world to looking for information or new tasks.  Ontological narrative sends  users to the history of the virtual world on different forking paths such as parallel world.


Continue reading


Hypertext fiction

Hypertext fiction is a category of text fiction characterized by the hierarchical structure and hyperlinks.  It became popular during the end of 1980s to 1990s.  It is composed of a series of web pages connected with each other by hyperlinks in a non-linear or non-sequential way.

What is hypertext fiction?

Joyce (1997), who is well known as an electronic literature critic and author of “afternoon: a story”, emphasized the importance of hypertext fiction’s changeability and reader’s choices.

“Our choices change the nature of what we read. Rereading in any medium is a conscious set of such choices, a sloughing off of one nature for another. The computer is always reread, an unseen beam of light behind the electronic screen replacing itself with itself at thirty cycles a second. Print stays itself–I have said often and elsewhere–electronic text replaces itself.” (Joyce, 1997)

The End of the Books?

Robert Coover, who wrote an essay “The End of the Books” in 1992, emphasized the difference between hypertext fiction and static book fiction.  Hypertext fiction makes readers free from domination by authors.  Unlike static text, hypertext’s readers and writers can be co-writers and co-creators.  Also, hyptertext fiction changed the form of narrative dramatically from linear and static way to non-linear, non-sequential and interactive way.  It had been impossible to create infinite text until hypertext emerged.

Genre of hypertext fiction

Also, Cicconi (2000) classified hypertext fiction according to frameworks; tree-hypernarrative with false forkings, tree-hypertext with true forkings, hypernarrative generated through expert systems and web-like hypernarratives.

Tree-hypernarrative with false forkings

Tree-hypertext with true forkings

Web-like hypernarratives

According to Hayles (2007), electronic literature can be divided into “first-generation” and “second-generation” with the break coming in 1995.  Before the invention of World Wide Web, the authors such as Michael Joyce, Jay David Bolter and John B. Smith created their works in Storyspace and HyperCard, which were popular hypertext writing environments.  As the development of World Wide Web and writing environments, hypertext fiction become more multifaceted.  M. D. Coverley, Caitlin Fisher, Talan Memmott, Scott Rettberg and William Gillespie were classified as second-generation creators.


Cicconi, D. 2000. The Shaping of Hypertextual Narrative. In. The Integrated Media Machine: A Theoretical Framework, Ed. M. Yla-Kotola, J. Suoranta, S. Inkinen & J. Rinne. Helsinki: University of Lapland, 2000. p.101-120.

Coover, R. 1992. The End of Books. New York Times Book Review. June 21. I. p.23-24.

Joyce, Michael. Of Two Minds:Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1995.

Joyce, M. 1997. Nonce Upon Some Times: Rereading Hypertext Fiction. MFS Modern Fiction Studies. Volume 43, Number 3. pp. 579-597.

Silvio GAGGI. From text to hypertext. Decentering the subject in fiction, film, the visual arts, and electronic media. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 1997, 135-138.

Jan Baetens, J. and Fred Truyen, F. 2013. Hypertext Revisited.  Art and Architecture . Leonardo.Volume 46. Number 5.

4 Essential Elements of Digital Environments for Narrative

According to Murray (1998), there are four principal properties to enhance literary creation.

  1. Digital environments are procedural.
  2. Digital environments are participatory.
  3. Digital environments are spatial.
  4. Digital environments are encyclopedic.

Digital environments are procedural

Procedural power of computers is an ability to execute a series of rules.  It carries not only static information but also complex and responsive behaviors.  A procedural dialogue between human being and responsive computers suggests that we can write rules for interpretation of the world as narrative.

Digital environments are participatory

The procedural environments with rule generated behaviors induces us the behaviors.  Computers are interactive and responsive to people’s input.  They generate contents using both internal procedural rules and external output.  In other words, computers require participation and involve people in their procedure. As the book was written in 1998, it was told as futuristic one.  However,  we have already had conversational computer Siri of iPhone.

Digital environments are spatial

Digital environments are “characterized by their power to represent navigable space” (Murray, 1998, p.79 ).  Computers provide space that people can move through unlike books and videos.  According to Murray, the navigation of virtual space is a dramatic enactment of the plot.  Navigation is imperative part for expressive narrative landscapes.

Digital environments are encyclopedic

As computers are most capacious medium ever invented, they store almost infinite quantities of information and contents forever.  In terms of capacity, the computers offer wealth of detail to artists.


Murray, J.H. Hamlet on the Holodeck : The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. The MIT Press. Cambridge. 1998.

Mobile and Location-based Narratives


Mobile Narrative and Location-based Narrative

As prevalence of mobile and tablet devices, text and narrative have been embedded into urban cities via location technologies.  In the early stage,  from the end of 1990s to the early 2000s, mobile narrative represented potable narrative using mobile devices such as portable audio devices.  Most of these mobile narrative were prepared by creators, and they didn’t allow users to interact with the stories even though they could choose the fragment of the stories.

After the invention of smart phone, location-based narrative using GPS (Global Positioning System)  technology appeared.  The new generation narrative become more interactive because location awareness application allows people to attach their contents to particular locations as well as read information attached a place.

Audio Talks : “The Missing Voice” (1999)

Janet Cardiff, who is well known for her audio talks, strayed around London city with her voice recorder in 1999.  She recorded her voice at several locations.  According to Cardiff, the story was influenced by detective series and mystery novels.  The mobile narrative prompts users to trace her trajectory and mysterious story with a CD player.  The work is linear narrative, which requests users to follow creator’s navigation.

Janet Cardiff “The Missing Voice” :

Also, there are hybrid of audio talks and GPS technology.  They are called mixed reality performance.

  • Blast Theory and The Mixed Reality Lab”Uncle Roy All Around You” (2003)
  • Blast Theory and The Mixed Reality Lab”Can You See Me Now?” (2003)

 “Murmur” (2003)

Shawn Michallef, James Roussel and Gabe Sawhney created a mobile storytelling performance “Murmur, collection of secret histories of the cityscape via their cellular phone.  In Toronto, there were [murmur] signs at several spaces such as a restaurant and cross-point.  Furthermore, the project expanded to other cities including Sao Paulo (Brazil), Geelong (Australia) and Dublin (Ireland).  The project is similar to audio talks in terms of prepared stories, but there is a difference that other people such as local people and participants created stories for the project.  In other words, the project is more open to public than previous audio talks.

Shawn Michallef:

“Yellow arrow” (2004-2006)

“Yellow arrow” is similar project to “murmur” created by the members of Counts Media; Michael Counts, Christopher Allen, Brian House, and Jesse Shapins.  Participants got a yellow arrow sticker which was marked by unique code from the project’s website, and placed it wherever they want to tell a story about the place.  Then, they sent a text message with the single code.  Each sticker and message were linked each other using the single code.  Other participants could get a story if they sent the unique code via their cellar phone.

Yellow Arrow project photos(Frickr) :

“CitySpeak” (2006)

Jason Lewis and Obx Labs at the Concordia University created a “Cityspeak”, which is a public installation using mobile devices and a big screen in a city.  The project focus on converting private communication to public displays at a particular location. Participants use their mobile phones to send their message to the common server.  The messages people sent via their mobile phone appeared on a public screen with other messages as a text stream. The text is processed using the NextText text visualization software. NextText references real-time data from the location to output visual behaviors of the text. :

Also, “TXTual Heading” by Paul Notzold is similar interactive textual installation using a screen and mobile phone.

TXTual Heading:

“Urban Tapestries” (2002-2007)

“Urban Tapestries” is “Public Authoring in the Wireless City” project using location technologies developed by Proboscis, which is an independent artist-led creative studio.  The Urban Tapestries software platform enabled people to attach text, sound and video to locations using GPS technology.  There were two functions to weave tapestries, pockets and threads.  Pockets were stories connecting to specific locations.  Threads showed the thematic relationship between pockets and locations.

Urban Tapestries website :
Urban Tapestries Research :

“Rider Spoke” (2007)

“Rider Spoke” by Blast Theory and The Mixed Reality Lab is similar to “Urban Tapestries”.  People cycled through the streets of the city, equipped with a tablet device.  The tablet showed a map of the city and the locations people can access and upload information. During cycling, a narrator told stories about the city via a headphone.  The project allowed people to explore the city freely.  There were no fixed route like early audio talks.

Rider Spoke :

“7Scenes” (2009-)

“7scenes” is a mobile storytelling platform that provides tools to develop scenes.  People can drop and drug their information easily on particular locations with signs.  The platform provides the interface to create scenes without programming knowledge.  The apps optimize GPS technology and smart phone’s functions.


“CSVNGR” (2009-)

“CSVNGR” is a game using location-based information.  Users go places, find quiz and game, and earn points.  As with 7Scenes, it uses GPS technology and provide mobile apps.



Silva, A.S. 2013. Mobile Narratives : Reading and Writing Urban Space with Location-Based Technologies.  In : Hayles, N. K. and Pressman,J. (ed.) . 2013. Comparative Textual Media Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era. Minnesota : University of Minnesota Press.

Raley, R. 2013. TXTual Practice.  In : Hayles, N. K. and Pressman,J. (ed.) . 2013. Comparative Textual Media Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era. Minnesota : University of Minnesota Press.

Genres of Electronic Literature

N. Katherine Hayles “Electronic Literature: What is it?”

What is electronic literature?  It includes various kinds of literature; “hypertext fiction, network fiction, interactive fiction, locative narratives, installation pieces, “codework,” generative art and the Flash poem”.  The author N. Katherine Hayles is an American literature critic and professor specializing in electronic literature, science and literature.

Genres of Electronic Literature

hypertext fiction

The evolution of electronic literature was entwined with the history and improvement of computers.   The authors such as  Michael Joyce, Jay David Bolter and John B. Smith created their work in Storyspace and HyperCard, which are hypertext writing environments.

Hayles divided 20th century’s electronic literature into “first-generation” and “second-generation,” with the break coming around 1995.  According to her, first-generation “classical” works includes hypertext fiction as seen above. The later seems more “contemporary or postmodern”.  The latter became diverse as the development multimedia repository.  Some works were published as a CD-ROM book.


  • Michael Joyce “afternoon: a story” (1990)
  • Stuart Moulthrop “Victory Garden” (1995)
  • Shelley Jackson “Patchwork Girl” (1995)
  • Deena Larsen “Marble Springs” (1993)


Interactive fiction / Interactive drama

Interactive fiction is real-time storytelling format reacting to input from players.  It can be distinguished from hyptertext fiction in terms of the game elements.  It allows readers to choose their preference and to .  As the development of technology including sound, graphic and mass storage media, it became harder to recognize difference between interactive fiction and computer game.

  • Emily Short, Savoir-Faire (2002)
  • Jon Ingold, All Roads (2001)
  • Donna Leishman, The Possession of Christian Shaw (2003)
  • the CAVE writing(2002)
  • Michael Mateas, Façade (2005)

Also, interactive storytelling is called interactive drama.

The term “network fiction” defined by Ciccoricco (2007), is a digital fiction that “makes use of hypertext technology in order to create emergent and recombinatory narratives.”

Locative Narratives

Locative narratives is characterized by location technology such as GPS technology.  Locative narrative embeds their story to particular location using the technology, and users read or listen to them using a mobile device.  It appeared as the invention and development of mobile devices.

Generative Text

Generative text is a category of generative art, which  use algorithm to generate, randomize and rearranging existing texts.  In terms of intervention of writers, generative art can be distinguished from interactive fiction and drama.

Flash Poems / Cyber poems

Flash was one of the most poplar software to create animation because of its beginner friendly interface.  In a Flash poem, a line or a word transforms itself dancing, falling, twisting and disappearing.  Nowadays, Flash has been disappearing as Apple stop supporting Flash in their products including iPhone and iPad anymore.


Electronic Literature Organization

Electronic Literature Essays


Ciccoricco, D. 2007. Reading Network Fiction. 1st Edition edition. Tuscaloosa: University Alabama Press.

Montfort, N. 2003. wisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Joan Campàs The Frontiers between Digital Literature and

Interactive Fiction as Literature

Rovert Coover “The end of the Books”

CaveWriting and the CAVE Simulator

Stephanie Strickland, “Writing the Virtual: Eleven Dimensions of E-Poetry,” Leonardo Electronic Almanac 14:05/06 (2006)

Stephanie Strickland, “Writing the Virtual: Eleven Dimensions of E-Poetry,” Leonardo Electronic Almanac 14:05/06 (2006)

exquisite_code : Python Code and Collective Novel

exquisite_code project

“exquisite_code” is a collaborative writing and coding project by heterogeneous groups of writers.  In each micro session, writers generated prompts and response, and code selected and mangled these text.  Writers continued the micro session again and again during their work, and chunks were piled up to generate “life-novel”.

The project was inspired by conversation between a writer and a programmer.

The writer, after a powerful joint, asked the programmer what it felt like to program. The programmer began to describe the process in language suited to the writer’s experience of writing and the writer began to understand that programming was like writing in many ways and that perhaps the intersection between the two was more creatively aligned than previously assumed.

exquisite_code History :

The project was experimented during 2009 and 2010.

Collective novel session in London

In 2010, seven international writers got together and worked eight hours a day for five days in London.  They created text-prompt, text chunks and edit-software written in Python.  A line printer spit out a stream of the live-novel.  At the end of each session, edit-software selected one line randomly, and the writers wrote next text chunks in six minutes.  Selected chunks were saved to the ‘positive text dump’ , while the rest of them were sent to a ‘waste dump’.  All materials were on public display during whole sessions  via projectors, monitors and output coming from the printer.


Marino, M. C. 2013. Reading exquisite_code: Critical Code Studies of Literature. In : Hayles, N. K. and Pressman,J. (ed.) . 2013. Comparative Textual Media Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era. Minnesota : University of Minnesota Press.

Literary High Street

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 23.22.12

Literary High Street

Literary High Street is a project led by John Lee, who is a professor of the University of Edinburgh.  The work is a part of work for Literary Edinburgh project by English literature department and Edinburgh College of Art.  This project developed a prototype of mobile app featuring Edinburgh’s High Street and local literature.


Literary Edinburgh Project

Electronic Literature

Ambient Audio:

Traditional walking tour:

Ian Hamilton Finlay:

A Literary Psychogeography of Tokyo & Amsterdam:

Historic maps: